John BENNETT MM
Rank: Corporal
Number: 9384
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 1 September 1916
Age: 28
Cemetery: St Paulís Churchyard, Portwood, Stockport

He was one of at least three sons of John & Mary Bennett, 30 Hanover Street, Portwood, Stockport. All three served in the War and none lived to see the end of it.

In his youth, John had been active in the Boys Brigade. When he left school, he went to work as a spinner in one of the local mills but, aged just over 19, he joined the army in 1907. His service papers show him to have been 5' 9" tall and weighing 166 pounds. He had a fresh complexion with brown hair and eyes. After training, he spent the next seven years with the Battalion in India. Whilst abroad, he was promoted to Lance Corporal but lost his rank when, on 13 April 1908, he was found guilty of "breaking out of barracks and returning drunk". He was in trouble again on 6 May when he was found to be again drunk. This time he was fined two shillings and six pence and confined to barracks for seven days.

On 20 March 1914, he was transferred to the Army reserve and returned to the Stockport area. On his service file was noted that he had served for 12 months in the regimental police. His discharge summary also recorded that his conduct was "Very good. Honest, trustworthy, hard working and intelligent. He has been employed as a nursing orderly at station hospital at Quetta during past two years."

John used his nursing skill to get a job at Cheadle Royal Hospital and, no doubt, looked forward to spending many years as a civilian. However, just a few months later, he was mobilised to rejoin the colours on 5 August, the second day of the War. The 2nd Battalion landed in France a few days later on 11 August. John will have been involved in the very early battles of the war, when the British Army was continually forced to retreat.

On 1 December, he was promoted back to lance corporal and was lucky to retain the rank when on 30 January, he received 28 days Field Punishment for an unknown offence.

John is very possibly the Corporal Bennett referred to in the Battalion's History "The War The Infantry Knew" by J C Dunn. Corporal Bennett and a Lieutenant Mostyn regularly went on patrol into No Man's Land at night to gather intelligence by trying to listen to the Germans or to see if defences were being improved. The book describes one incident on 7 August 1915. "At night Mostyn and his corporal companion went to search for a German listening post which had been reported. The idea was to go out with a party next night and rush it. They approached its whereabouts in file. Mostyn leading, and hoping the post would fire or do something to show just where it was. They had crawled quite close to it, probably they had been spotted and allowed to get closer, when a shot was fired which wounded Mostyn in the left arm. He sank into the long grass and lay doggo while the firing continued. Only when the post got up to come out for him did he and Bennett open fire. That sent their assailants scurrying back to their line, from which flares were sent up. The lair was examined at leisure and then the patrol went home."

On 18 May 1916, John was promoted to corporal but on 6 July, he was wounded in action. This was most probably by shrapnel as the Battalion was in the process of being relieved from the front line and this was a favourite time for enemy shelling. He was treated at a Field Ambulance unit and then evacuated to 8th Stationery Hospital at Wimereux. By late July 1916, he was being treated at Lake Military Hospital, Ashton under Lyne, where he seems to have been making initial good progress towards recovery. The Stockport Advertiser, 27 July 1916, published a letter from him. He wrote "If only the munition workers will forfeit their holidays, it will mean a lot to the boys at the front. Keep on working and I am confident that we won't be long before we all have a glorious holiday."

Clearly, John must have taken a turn for the worse and he died a few weeks later. He was buried at St Paul's Church, Portwood, Stockport. The newspaper at the time reported that several hundred attended his funeral which was conducted with full military honours. A "firing party" was formed by guards from Handforth Camp whilst two buglers sounded the "Last Post".

St Paul's Church was demolished many years ago. The graveyard still remains but there are no gravestones in place. At one end of the grassed site is a war memorial to the men of Portwood. At the other end, is a special memorial from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorating 8 soldiers, including John, who are buried there.  It reads "The soldiers honoured here died in the service of their country and lie buried in this churchyard."

The London Gazette, 10 October 1916, confirmed the award of the Military Medal to John. His act of bravery is not recorded, but it was most likely for some action between the opening of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July and his wounding six days later.   

John's family will arranged for his name to be inscribed on the Stockport War Memorial, where it appears amongst those who served with Welsh Regiments. It would appear that his employers at Cheadle Royal also wanted to remember him and they must have arranged for his commemoration on the nearby Long Lane Memorial. His brother, William, believed to be this man, died on 28 August 1917 and his other brother, Herbert, on 10 October 1918. The Bennetts were one of several Stockport families to lose three sons in the War.

   
           
   
     
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